Blogger Comments: It is becoming more and more obvious that corruption and crime in Alabama are being addressed. Corrupt politicians should be prepared for their indictments. Morgan County Politicians are not immune from prosecution. Your time is coming to Ana. We are pretty sure you will have plenty of company.
Separate investigation led to Hammon’s guilty plea, ouster
· By Mary Sell Montgomery Bureau
· 1 hr ago
o State Rep. Micky Hammon of Decatur speaks to the Decatur Daily editorial board at The Daily's offices in 2012. Hammon pleaded guilty in federal court this week to mail fraud in connection with using campaign funds for personal use. [DECATUR DAILY FILE] Gary Cosby Jr
MONTGOMERY — The U.S. attorney’s felony charge against former state Rep. Micky Hammon over the use of his campaign money for personal expenses apparently was the result of another investigation that is at least a year old.
“We stumbled upon this while investigating another matter,” assistant U.S. Attorney Clark Morris said today.
A Morgan County colleague of Hammon’s said the investigation is at least a year old and related to his involvement in a business.
Morris said she didn’t know and couldn’t say what that the other matter was and couldn’t comment on whether the investigation is ongoing.
“We were looking into another matter and we ran across (evidence against Hammon),” Clark said.
Hammon, R-Decatur, signed a plea agreement this week, but an addendum remains under seal. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, said this week he was interviewed by federal investigators about Hammon and his business dealings in late summer or early fall of last year.
In February of this year, when Hammon barely survived a no-confidence vote to keep his House majority leader role, which he’d had since Republicans took over the Statehouse in 2010, Henry said he had “no desire to follow (Hammon) down a path of indictment, conviction.” Soon afterward, Hammon resigned the leadership position.
“I had been questioned by the postal inspector and U.S. attorney regarding my knowledge of questionable business practices that Rep. Hammon was involved in that myself and several other legislators had been approached and asked if we wanted to participate in,” Henry, R-Hartselle, said this week.
Henry said after he met with the U.S. attorney and postal inspector, he became more concerned about the business "and Micky’s involvement in that business, and I was unwilling to follow another leader with questionable business practices, which is what I stated at the time,” Henry said.
Hammon agreed to plead guilty to mail fraud in a scheme to transfer money from his campaign finance account to a personal account, in violation of state law, and use the funds for personal expenses in 2013 and 2014.
In 2015, Hammon missed parts of a special legislative session because he was helping to open a Trina Health clinic in Hoover. Trina Health offers an artificial pancreas treatment to people with diabetes. Hammon at the time said the clinic would improve people’s lives and more were coming, including to Decatur.
Then-Gov. Robert Bentley attended the Hoover clinic’s ribbon cutting and was pictured with Hammon. In September 2015, AL.com reported that Trina Health founder Ford Gilbert said he’d reach out to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama to explore the possibility of getting the artificial pancreas treatment for people with diabetes covered by insurance.
In 2016, Hammon told this newspaper he had nothing to do with a bill in the Legislature that would have benefited Trina Health. The bill would have required insurance companies to cover insulin injections offered by Trina. The bill was assigned to the Commerce and Small Business Committee on which Hammon served, but it never received a vote. It was not sponsored by Hammon, and he denied any involvement with it.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, the largest insurance provider in the state, opposed House Bill 415 and said last year it won’t cover the type of artificial pancreas treatments provided by Trina Health or other providers due to a lack of “strong clinical and scientific evidence.”
The Hoover site was one of three Trina Health offices in the state in 2015, but none appear to be open now. Phone numbers for the Hoover, Foley and Fairhope offices have been disconnected, and though Trina’s website shows expansions in other states, it no longer lists locations in Alabama.
A call to Trina Health’s California headquarters was not returned. Neither Hammon nor his attorney has returned requests for comment this week.
Last year, Hammon told this newspaper people were making slanderous accusations about him.
“It is absolutely false to suggest or infer that I had any part of using my position as a state legislator in connection with helping any private company, or that I in any way violated the ethics laws, which I believe are so very important,” he said.
“Any story and any storyteller who suggest my actions in this matter in any way violate the ethics law do so with malice. They would be well advised to brush up on slander and libel laws.”
Hammon's campaign money was key in his plea deal.
“Self-dealing by elected officials erodes society’s confidence in its governmental institutions,” U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin Sr. said in a statement this week. “Self-dealing is precisely what occurred here. Those who donated to Rep. Hammon’s campaign expected that the campaign would use those resources lawfully and to foster an informative public debate. Instead, Rep. Hammon placed those funds into his own personal piggy bank.”
Hammon was unopposed in 2014 and spent little money on his re-election. Campaign finance records available through the secretary of state’s office show only three expenditures during the entire election cycle, including a September 2013 $456 reimbursement to himself, detailed as a cellphone expense. Cellphone reimbursements are a common item on elected officials’ campaign reports, even in non-election years.
He also paid a $1,116 qualifying fee to the state GOP party in February 2014 and $193 for transportation expenses to a Decatur gas station.
Hammon’s 2016 and 2015 campaign finance reports, filed in accordance with state law, show no expenditures those years and $52,500 remaining in his account.
His plea removes him from office, and a special election has to be called by Ivey.
Hammon earlier this year in Morgan County Circuit Court agreed in a consent judgement to pay Regions Bank $320,719 after a years-long legal dispute over his repayment of a home equity loan.
Hammon is probably best known for the 2011 anti-illegal immigration bill he sponsored. Much of that law has been struck down, and he sponsored few bills after it, once saying he was focusing on his role as majority leader.